Fear the Walking Dead Season 2 Episode 8 “Grotesque” (mid-season 2 premiere)
Directed by Dan Sackheim
Written by Kate Barnow
Starring Kim Dickens, Cliff Curtis, Frank Dillane, Alycia Debnam-Carey, Lorenzo James Henrie, Mercedes Mason, Danay Garcia AMC
Air Date: Sunday, August 21, 2016, 9pm
Spoilers for Fear the Walking Dead…
Fear the Walking Dead, a prequel to AMC’s popular series The Walking Dead, centers on a group of Los Angeles-area survivors of a zombie apocalypse. The second season returned this Sunday with the mid-season premiere, 2.8 “Grotesque.” As this show tends to do, it starts out quite slow, too slow for a premiere, and focuses on one returning character, Nick, even though we’ve been waiting since May to find out what happened to all the people in the main group.
Here’s some catch-up information before we get to the recap of Episode 2.8: The short 6-episode first season introduced us to Madison and her two children, Nick and Alicia, and her boyfriend Travis and his son Chris, who joined up with other survivors to escape Los Angeles. The far superior and extended second season, which will run 15 episodes, premiered in April and saw the group with Victor Strand on his yacht after they are forced to evacuate the city. After several scuffles with some nefarious characters and a failed plan to settle in San Diego (there is no more San Diego!), they arrive in Mexico at a compound run by Celia, the son of Strand’s boyfriend Thomas, who has been bitten and is dying. Turns out, Celia is running some kind of cult of the dead there, thinking that the undead are still people, and Nick is taken in by this belief. Chris, meanwhile, is having some kind of nervous breakdown, and wants his father to let him go — but of course, Travis won’t give up on his son. Madison, on the other hand, is forced to let her son Nick go when he chooses not to follow his mom and sister after the compound is set ablaze and the remaining survivors scatter.
This mid-season premiere, 2.8 “Grotesque,” opens in Mexico on Nick, still covered in the masking blood and guts of the undead, waking up to see a cross on the wall, not unlike our introduction to him in the pilot where he awakens from a drug binge at an abandoned church. Now, he’s off drugs, but he still exhibits addict behavior. Fellow compound survivor Sofia is there with young Charlie, and they plan to set off to look for the boy’s father. Nick, on the other hand, would rather travel north in Mexico, which Sofia warns is dangerous. But, Nick has no fear — he welcomes danger. He had previously told his mother that he’s not afraid, and believed himself to be invincible because he walked amongst the dead and lived to tell about it.
So, off Nick goes on what will be about 30 minutes of him walking through the desert exhibiting very poor survival skills. Yet, there he is, miraculously surviving!
First, he stops at an abandoned house, where he makes a fire and goes to sleep, only to wake up soon after to a woman screaming and swinging a baseball bat at him. Fearing this diminutive lady’s swing — she hits him about 3-4 times — he runs off without his backpack, which had supplies (WATER!) to last a few days. Ok, time to hit the desert road with nothing but the flimsy clothes on your back, Nick.
Next we see Nick it’s daytime in the desert. He comes to a bunch of cars, where he looks for supplies and finds a sip of water and a semi-working radio. There’s a walker trapped by her seatbelt in the car, and Nick doesn’t show any caution when thrusting his arm into the car to grab what he needs. But, it’s time for Nick to snap out of it, because here comes a jeep with 3 gun-toting men it in. We’re shown that they are sadistic people when they find a man in a car who’s still alive, and instead of saving him, they kill him on the spot and then laugh about it. Just then, the radio Nick found makes some sounds and he takes off, with the men shooting at him. He runs off into the wilderness and thankfully doesn’t get shot, but he’s still, as they say, fucked.
Now, what would a lost in the wilderness with no supplies story be without someone having to drink their own pee? After cracking open a cactus to drink its juice and eat its pulp, Nick vomits it all up. Yeah, that’s bad. Time to drink your own pee! For someone reason, the camera gives us a super close-up of Nick putting his hand into his pants for this moment. But, the urine seems to hit the spot much better than the cactus did.
Night falls, and now Nick is cold, because you know, it’s the desert at night! He finds an abandoned hollowed-out van and takes refuge there. But when he wakes in the morning, there’s two ferocious dogs barking at him and attacking. He climbs atop the van, but not before he’s bit in the leg. Thankfully, here comes some walkers to distract his canine attackers! The two fearless dogs charge the group of walkers only to became overpowered and devoured by them. After they finish their snack, they turn around and go the other way — has this ever happened before?! I don’t think so, but it’s in the script, so there we go. As they leave, Nick chows down on some dog carcass and then makes a tourniquet from a belt on one of the downed walkers. Then, it’s off to blend in with the walker horde, which happens to be traveling towards Tijuana.
Starving, dehydrated, exhausted, exposed, and injured, Nick begins hallucinating during the walk and imagines that the walkers are talking to him, beckoning him: “We’ll take you home. Come with us. Come. Come home. Follow us. Home. Come.” That’s when he hears the voice of Gloria, the blonde girl we saw him with in the series premiere at the abandon church. The last time he saw her, she had been infected and had turned. Now, he imagines one of the walkers as her, telling him “Come with me. I’ll take you home.”
While the bulk of the episode is Nick walking through the desert near-death, there are a few flashback sequences sprinkled throughout of his time with Gloria. We see them in court-mandated rehab, flirting while thumb wresting. She warns him to cooperate with the program because another guy — who she says was also in there for dealing, though Nick said he was just “holding” for someone — was given extra time because he refused to speak to his parents on Family Day. She talks to him about his dad, who he says would not be able to handle Nick ripping into him. He used to be there for his son, but now he’s someone who is always tired, and who comes home from work and goes right to bed. Nick doesn’t feel like his father really hears him and hasn’t shown him how to be a man. He thinks his father feels like the world is “too much” for him. Another flashback sees Nick and Gloria at the rehab waiting for their parents to arrive. When Madison comes, she has to break the news that his father was killed instantly in a head-on collision. He screams “No!” and Gloria sees through the window into the room that Nick is upset. The final flashback is of Nick and Gloria in the abandoned church turned drug den getting ready to shot up drugs. It’s the time right before we met Nick in the pilot episode. Here, Nick is reading Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson, because it’s a book his father had given him as a way to be connected to him. Nick tells her he’s reading about “grotesques,” and that when you hold on to something for too long or too hard, you corrupt it. She says that she’ll read the book in the morning, as she prepares their drugs. We saw in the pilot that when Nick wakes up that next morning, Gloria is no longer beside him, and when he finds her elsewhere in the church, she’s infected and feasting on someone.
Back to Nick in the present walking amongst the horde. The three outlaws in the jeep return and start shooting with great pleasure at the walkers. Undead are getting picked off all around him, but again, Nick is still standing. One of the men realizes that Nick is actually alive and is so shocked to see him walking with the dead, that he drops his gun and is then overcome by walkers, which scares off the other two men. Again, Nick survives, and appears to be satisfied that the downed outlaw got his comeuppance.
From a hilltop, a woman, Luciana, and her two guards, are watching Nick below walking with the horde. They are curious of him, and see him collapse on the road. One of the men, Francisco, wants to rescue him, but Luciana has them move on without going to Nick.
Eventually, there’s a massive downpour and Nick wakes up and drinks some of the rainwater. We later see him limping through a residential area and he’s not looking too good. He searches a pharmacy, but doesn’t find any medication. As he’s bandaging his leg, Luciana and her men arrive and ask if he’s infected. He explains that he’s not, it’s just a dog bite, so she takes him to someone who can help him.
We then see Nick in the Colonia, a complex inhabited by survivors. A kind man named Alejandro patches up his wound, which was near infection. Alejandro says Nick would have died out in there in the wilderness, something that Nick says he wouldn’t have minded — there he is again, tempting and almost welcoming death. Alejandro calls him foolish, and says that while death is not to be feared, it also shouldn’t be pursued. When asked why he was walking with the dead, Nick said taht walking with them was safer than facing the men with the guns. Nick reveals that he traveled there from Valla de Guadalupe, and Alejandro knows that’s a long walk (about 100 miles!). “You should be dead,” he says to Nick, who replies “Coulda, shoulda, woulda, that’s the story of my life.” And he traveled all that way because he “wanted to be where the dead aren’t monsters.”
Once Nick is patched up, he goes out into the Colonia where he sees the residents out together, and children kicking around a soccer ball. He smiles. He is happy, which is rare for him.
The Colonia appears to be an idyllic place for Nick to be — although, we know in the Dead universe that things are never what they seem to be at first glance. But, this has obviously been a journey that Nick needed to take, so perhaps when things go south again — and you know that they will — he’ll be better prepared for it.
So, this mid-season premiere was all about Nick’s physical journey, as well as that of his heart and mind, and also served to introduce us to a new settlement, the Colonia. What is happening with Madison and the other original survivors will have to wait until next week.
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[Photo Credit: Richard Foreman Jr/AMC. Used with permission.]